Today I purchased an automobile. I walked out of the car dealership on Merrick Road feeling oddly satisfied. I knew quite well that I had paid more than I should have. I even got the feeling that I had just been cheated out of a ridiculous amount of cash. I didn’t care, though. I now owned an automobile, and was free of that wretched service known as public transportation, more specifically the train. It would be a long time before I ever took that again, especially after what happened on Monday, the 15th of November. This incident is what in fact led me to empty my wallet for the purchase of perhaps the shoddiest automobile in South Amityville.
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I was taking my normal commute into the city for work and was asked by a friend (who will remain anonymous) to return the Dwight D. Eisenhower biography to a fellow co-worker of mine that he had borrowed it from. I was never big into politics, history, or non-fiction, for that matter, so the book lay unopened on my lap as I sat down on an empty seat on the train.
Then he looked over. This was the type of person you hope to God doesn’t land in a seat across from you, and when he does you hope he’s unable to speak or even express himself. All signs indicated that this was not a person one should converse with. The padlocked laptop computer case sporting a patch advertising a community college in Upstate New York with a name I couldn’t even hope to pronounce and the uneasily shifting eyes that searched desperately for the first non-threatening human being to engage in mind-numbingly dull conversation were both indications of the inevitability of a terrible commute if the proper actions were not taken.
Therefore, in sheer desperation, I did what no self-respecting commuter would ever do if said person had even the smallest amount of common sense: I made a direct course for the terribly out-of-service bathroom that lay a mere 5 feet from my seat.
Now a person with even the slightest, most miniscule degree of luck would have made it to that bathroom and enjoyed a quiet commute, albeit a stinky one. My luck, however, was non-existent, as I had made the crucial mistake of leaving the cover of the dreaded Eisenhower biography facing the general public as I stood up. More importantly, the cover was visible to a certain aforementioned individual who now drew up some measly courage at the sight of ol’ Dwight’s grinning mug, and made the comment that ruined my commute, and my love of public transportation.
“So, you, uh, like Eisenhower, huh?” Came the ineloquent inquiry.
“Well actually I’m-“
Our friend didn’t even give me a fair chance to escape. He quickly interrupted me and, as I slowly and angrily repositioned myself in my original seat, began a story of such horror that I dread repeating it to you, even now.
“I, uh, met Eisenhower once. Not Dwight D. Eisenhower, mind you, but his lesser brother Quincy Tad. You’ve probably read about Quincy Tad in that book of yours.”
I pretended that I had.
“Yep, good old QT, as we called him,” my new acquaintance began. At this point I’m sure I must have said something in a pitiful attempt to reminisce, but being quite insignificant, I have forgotten the statement.
“You see, it was my freshman year at good ol’ Wumchuck University. You a Wumchuck?” I informed him that I was not.
“That’s too bad pal. Well I was captain of the hockey team, that’s field hockey, during my freshman year. We were division three and in third place--which is the best shape Wumchuck had ever been in since they first became a college back in… [I watch my new friend struggle to think here.] Oh, I can’t remember, exactly.” I assured him that this was no problem.
He continued, this time without difficulty. “The main thing is that we were doing well. The whole college began showing up to our games, and we were treated like a bunch of sports heroes. It was terrific. Then, out of nowhere, our middleman was struck with a mild case of Montezuma’s Revenge. Mind you, it can get pretty brutal, even in mild cases.
“Unluckily for us, this was as we were entering the first game of the playoffs. We were mighty worried. We probably visited every expensive hospital in Upstate NY, and after we were promptly turned away from those, we tried the ones we could afford. None of them seemed to offer anything that could help our middleman recover in enough time. Oh, we tried everything you could think of to get rid of it. We even had one of our freshmen follow our middleman around with a little port-a- potty but that just led to some messy details that I would rather not get into. Nasty stuff!”
[He then made an unusual face to signify just how nasty it was.]
“But anyway, the point is that nothing was really working. The poor fella just couldn’t seem to catch a break. Now this left us in a terrible position. What made us even uneasier was the fact that the biggest game of the season was only four days away. We were playing the Plimpton Peccaries. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but they were pretty nasty. Not only was Plimpton a field hockey college, it was also a major party college. So having to face 30-or-so drunk and slightly disgruntled Peccaries was not something that our team wished to do without our main man.
“Suddenly, out of nowhere it started to rain.”
Now, this seemed out of context, so out of confusion I asked my friend, “When, exactly did it start to rain?”
He looked at his watch, “Oh, at about 7:30.”
This being no help at all, I decided to just let him continue and leave it at that.
“So, anyway, it was raining mighty hard, and on to the field - that’s the field hockey field, buddy, I wouldn’t want you to get confused – walks this huge muscular fella. I swear, he must’ve been like 6-foot-something. He was dressed in this wacky-looking shawl or something. His hair was red, I think, or orange, or one of those bright colors. Bright colors always get me mixed up. ‘Hello,’ he says, ‘I’m here to help.’
“Now this just left us perplexed, but we all watched as he pulled a rather large rooster out of the leather satchel he carried around his shoulders. ‘Clucka-Clucka,’ crowed the rooster cheerfully as the mysterious giant deftly placed it on the field. We all nervously backed away as the rooster began to explore it’s surroundings. Tommy Blayton got so nervous that he started to cry [I had no idea who Tommy Blayton could’ve been, but I looked surprised with this fact nonetheless]. Anyway, this chicken, or rooster, or whatever it was walked right up to our main man with Montezuma. It looked at him for a long time in this queer sort of way. Suddenly, it jumped up and pecked our middleman quite fiercely on the shoulder. ‘Ow! That really smarts!’ Cried our middleman.
“Then, quite carefully, he placed both of his hands on his stomach. ‘I-I’m better! It’s Gone! The Mokizumi’s Gone!’ He started to dance all around the field. We were saved! We all joined in the victory song that all Wumchucks sing when they feel in the right spirits. It goes a little something like this:
“Wumchuck, Wumchuck, I love you.
Wumchuck, Wumchuck, We’re not blue.
We are Wumchucks. Hear us shout…
“And, umm…I forget exactly how the end of the song goes. Oh well, you get the idea, don’t you? We were excited!”
Then, quite to my surprise, my train-guest stopped talking just as abruptly as he had started. I assumed that he would provide me with a rather long and elaborate finale to this tale. I assumed wrong. We just sat there in silence for a minute or two. After a few more minutes, the man cleared his throat and began to stare out the window as if he had never even started the conversation I had just suffered through. This was too much for me.
“So, the man, he was Quincy Tad?” I asked urgently.
“Hmm?” I had apparently broken a deep train of thought.
“The man, the one who saved the day, with the rooster? Was that Quincy Tad?”
“Buddy, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”
I became incredibly frustrated. “Quincy Tad! Eisenhower’s brother! He’s the whole reason you told me that story. Who was he, the middleman? Who?!”
“Oh, I never met Eisenhower. I thought you did. You must’ve misheard me, pal.”
I know that I did not mishear him. You know that I did not mishear him. You can check the first page. It’s there, clear as day. I realized my problem, ladies and gentlemen: I was dealing with an idiot. I hate dealing with idiots, especially early in the morning. I get quite tetchy after having to deal with an idiot, and to make matters worse, I would not be able to stop wondering about that story of unrivaled stupidity that I had just a few moments ago been privy to.
I asked, quite dejected, “So did you guys win your big game, at least?”
“Nope, they creamed us.”
I expected as much. There was not one clear aspect of anything in the story that I had just heard. It began to eat away at me. My spirits, my emotions were gnawed at by question after question. My brain became a tattered mess of confusion. Who exactly was Quincy Tad? Who was the man with the rooster? What was the name of the middleman? What kind of rooster was it? How did their anthem end, anyway? What rooster has ever said, “Clucka-Clucka?!!” I began to develop a twitch as these thoughts circled in my head.
Luckily it was my stop. I quickly got up and gave my seat to a nearby elderly woman. As I started off the train I heard my friend ask his new neighbor, “So, you, uh, like ballet, huh? That reminds me of the time that I was a student at….” I didn’t stop to listen. I just quickly left the train with a shudder.
I stood on the platform for a long time that day. Then, without warning and with a large grin on my face, I promptly tossed the Eisenhower biography in the nearest trashcan and firmly made up my mind to purchase an automobile within the next twenty-four hours.